Caribbean, Travel

Hotel Review – Fond Doux Plantation and Resort

Our shuttle wound through the switchbacks of St Lucia’s winding roads on the way from the airport to Fond Doux Plantation and Resort.

Dennis, our driver, pointed out the many sites along the way, stopping whenever there was a view of the famed Pitons. “Gros Piton” or “Petite Piton” he’d say, making sure we knew the difference between the two. He was proud of his country and eager to not only show us the sites but also tell us about life in the Caribbean paradise.

As we continued along, he honked the horn and waved at nearly every passing car or pedestrian. “Friends?” I asked. He shyly smiled and said, “I know a lot of people.” I had an immediate sense that there was something special about this country. “Lived here my whole life,” he continued. “My wife and I live out in the countryside where it’s quiet. We have six children, but they’re all grown now.”

“You don’t look old enough to have six children.” He laughed and told me his age. I asked him the secret to looking so young, and he said, “Three things: Good food, hard work, and good sleep.” I could jive with the good food and sleep part. The hard work part? Not on my vacation…

Review-6

We sat on the front porch of the 19th century French colonial estate house and were welcomed with a cool Caribbean breeze as we sipped tropical drinks served in hollowed out coconuts.

The resort cat, Boots, sat between us. His presence let us know that this was his house, but he was welcoming us into it with a brush against my leg. In the courtyard, men raked the drying cocoa beans, sending the seductive smell of chocolate our way. I could tell that Fond Doux was a different kind of tropical resort.

After our drinks, Katrina escorted us to our hillside cottage where our luggage was waiting. We had a serious decision to make. Go to the pool to catch the last few rays of the afternoon sun or relax on our balcony? The heat turned us into sloths and the breeze on our balcony beckoned us forth. We relaxed with our books to the call of the rain forest until the weekly manager’s reception.

Review-4

The manager’s reception was an authentic St Lucian evening of food and culture.

Most resort manager’s receptions are corporate and dry with guests only showing up for a free swill of beer or wine and the staff because it’s required of them. There’s usually some canned entertainment playing in the background that nobody pays attention to and stale cheese and crackers to nibble on with that free glass of wine. Then everyone moseys along to their real plans for the evening.

I can’t say that the music wasn’t cheesy. It was a little. A mixture of reggae and pop tunes played with an island flare (they could have done without the pop tunes). What was special was the staff in attendance with their families in tow. They weren’t there to shake hands out of obligation but as invited participants in the celebration of St Lucian culture sipping rum punch and sampling local bites (I still think about those fish cakes) along with the guests.

Review-2

The friendly interactions between the staff members and the guests demonstrated how special the family connection is at Fond Doux. The waitress wasn’t just a waitress, but a friend from the night before. Someone to share a laugh with and enjoy the time at Fond Doux with you. Perhaps it helps that a local St Lucian family owns Fond Doux Plantation, and they care more about creating that family atmosphere than a corporate giant with no real connection to the island other than monetary investment.

Review-1

Fond Doux Plantation is located away from the main tourist hub of St Lucia in its own Garden of Eden.

Which to us was ideal. We were looking for that authentic St Lucian experience and find that it’s rarely obtained in central tourist hubs, especially in tropical destinations dotted with megaresorts, chain restaurants, and malls selling designer clothes next Chinese knockoffs.

Fond Doux is less than five miles outside of Soufriere Town in the remains of the extinct volcanic crater that helped form the island over 400,000 years ago. The four-mile caldera also houses the Pitons, active sulfur springs, mud baths, and plenty of lush vegetation perfect for organic produce. It’s where those staying on the northern (tourist) part of the island come for their day trips before returning to the safety net of corporate comforts leaving the peace of the rainforest to those fortunate enough to look beyond the glossy pages of Apples Vacation tour books.

Review-7

Fond Doux helps its guests explore those sites through its own private tours offering a more intimate experience than cramming onto a bus with 40 strangers. We opted for the Heritage Tour Package One. Our day started with a private guided tour of the Tet Paul Trail. The trail is owned and operated by a local village of subsistence organic farmers as a way to bring extra income into the village and showcase their view of the Pitons from “heaven.”

The tour also took us to the Piton Waterfall where we bathed in the naturally heated spring pools and showered under the hot water of the cascading waterfall. Our Rastafarian guide educated us on the health factors of the surrounding vegetation. The sour sop fruit that he sent us home with would help us “sleep well and poop well.” Our final stop of the tour was the world’s only drive-in volcano. and sulfuric mud still bubbles and rises throughout the crater.

Beyond the natural attractions, there are also plenty of restaurants serving up fresh, local, and original cuisine. All are within a short cab ride from Fond Doux. Don’t worry about getting around either. Fond Doux operates its own car service at a very affordable rate.

Review-8

Of course, there is plenty to do among Fond Doux’s 135 lush and historic acres.

In fact, there’s no need to leave the resort grounds. The acclimation begins with the Estate Tour. No matter what the staff says, this is not a leisurely walk in the woods, but it is well worth the effort (be sure to wear sneakers). The tour starts with the Cocoa Fermentation House to see the beginning of the chocolate making process. It then quickly ascends the hills to Fond Doux Ridge, which not only offers spectacular views of the Pitons and Sugar Beach, but was also a pivotal battle point that helped St Lucia fight off the British in 1795 and maintain their slave free status as a French Colony.

The tour continues through the plantation as the guide points out the various vegetables, fruits, and herbs that are organically grown onsite and served in Fond Doux’s restaurant. We ended at the pool where everyone dove in for a cooling splash while Jeffery, our guide, climbed a tree to fetch us some fresh coconuts to rehydrate.

Review-3

The pool was where we spent the majority of our time at Fond Doux.

While we enjoy adventurous vacations, we were looking for more a tropical retreat to relax and reflect. The pool was the perfect oasis to dive into a book and get lost for an afternoon, occasionally looking up for a sip of Piton Lager or the view of the jungle canopy. I didn’t even miss a beach view and instead experienced a deeper relaxation with the rustling jungle trees towering overhead. When we tired of the pool, we caught the free shuttle to nearby Sugar Beach.

Review-9

I ended my time at Fond Doux with a relaxing morning at the Spa.

While from the outside Mama Le Terre Spa looked basic, my experience taught me that it possessed the essence of the Fond Doux experience. It was rustic. It was real. There were no fake spa sounds pumped in to create an artificial environment of relaxation. Instead, the sound of the jungle let you know where you were. In fact, it sang me into one of the deepest relaxations I’ve ever experienced. I fell asleep on the massage table while the masseuse vigorously worked through the knotted muscles of my back.

All products used at Mama Le Terre Spa are 100% natural made from local, organically grown ingredients. Fruits are used to make the creams and scrubs, and the massage oils are infused with coconuts, herbs, and other organic aromatics. They even offer a cocoa facial. I asked the therapist if it was edible. She said yes, but it didn’t taste very good.

Review-12

Fond Doux is the type of tourism that St Lucia and the rest of the Caribbean needs.

For too long we as tourists have been sold a bill of goods that is manufactured and inauthentic when it comes to our Caribbean vacation. We settle for poolside culture nights with forced smiles from the entertainment. The cuisine is cooked in a corporate manner to avoid offending our delicate palates and to save money by using inexpensive, flavorless ingredients. We have reached a point where there is almost nothing “local” about a Caribbean vacation. St Thomas looks like the Bahamas looks like the Dominican Republic.

I applaud resorts like Fond Doux who have said enough! Resorts that are tired of watching international conglomerates pollute their land. Resorts that deliver fresh, local cuisine and minimize their carbon footprint by including green efficiencies in their operations. I thought about all of this while I lay in my bed at night listening to the jungle sing its sweet lullaby. Never before have I experienced such a relaxation on vacation.

Review-10

Resort Highlights

  • You’re staying on a plantation. All the produce is fresh from the on premise gardens that you see from your window.
  • Fond Doux operates its own taxi service to local attractions and restaurants. There is no need to rent car. Trust me, you won’t want to drive on those twisty roads from the wrong side of the road.
  • This is a boutique resort with only 15 cottages. It’s truly a private oasis making it perfect for couples retreats or honeymoons.

Special Considerations

  • Fond Doux is not on the beach nor does it have an ocean view. However, they do offer a daily free shuttle to Sugar Beach and the view of the rainforest from the cottage balconies and the pool is just as spectacular as the ocean.
  • Some reviews describe the sound of the jungle as quite overwhelming. I, on the other hand, found it soothing. If it is too loud, earplugs are available in the rooms.

Who else thinks Fond Doux Plantation and Resort sounds like the perfect tropical getaway?

Disclosure – Muchas gracias to Fond Doux Plantation and Resort for hosting us. Regardless of Fond Doux’s generosity, readers receive my honest feedback as my opinions are not for sale.